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The whole country is justifiably worked up over the brutal rape of a Delhi medical student in a bus. As one would expect, the reactions...

Thursday, December 27, 2012


The whole country is justifiably worked up over the brutal rape of a Delhi medical student in a bus. As one would expect, the reactions vary a great deal. But two common characteristics stand out. First, all the reactions are intense, vehement, and barring the political class, from the bottom of the heart. Or in one word, Sincere! The other is that, none of them even remotely tries to understand the root cause of the problem. In this the political class is no exception. In an ‘Ideal World’ that is their actual job. But the less said about that, the better!
That is not to say that the anger is unjustified as being out of all proportion, or the demand for Death Penalty for rapists is Unpractical/Excessive or, demanding Castration is ridiculous. But does anybody pause to think? Will this really solve the problem of sexual harassment of all sorts up to & including rape? In other words, are we saying that the main or only reason sexual crimes against women are not only continuing unabated, but are in fact, increasing is that, there is not enough deterrent punishment?
Over the years, we have perfected this sort of confusion almost to an art form! We, as a society are happy to put a quick whitewash over whatever is troubling us at the moment, satisfy our moral indignation without ‘wasting’ too much of our time and effort, feel good about having done something to ‘eradicate the evil’, then forget the whole thing and get on with our life. History has shown us repeatedly that no deep-seated evil in society responds to such quick-fix.
Let us take the example of Dowry Deaths. Do you remember a similar uproar over dowry deaths in the 80s? What did we do? Passed the Anti-Dowry legislation with stringent, draconian, anti-democratic provisions against all males and their families! I don’t have to enumerate all the provisions of that piece of legislation. Ask yourself honestly; has incidence of demanding & giving dowry and more importantly intra-marital violence against women decreased since then? The unequivocal answer is NO, IT HAS NOT!
A detailed discussion of ill effects of that law may be a topic of a separate article but I do know from personal, first-hand knowledge that at least 3 marriages amongst my acquaintances, broke down because, at the first sign of the slightest trouble between the newly-weds, the boy’s family promptly chose divorce for the simple, (and to me at least, a most convincing) argument – ‘What if she attempts suicide or something? Or accuses us of cruelty?’ All decent, god fearing people with not a whiff of dowry anywhere amongst the whole lot!
So what has that legislation achieved?
Or take the question of female foeticide. What have we done collectively at the social, legislative, and judicial levels to first understand and then combat this very real and heinous crime? Except of course, thoroughly discrediting Ultrasonography and labeling all doctors who conduct sonography as Child Murderers?
This is not to condone USG-Assisted or any other Sex Determination procedures conducted for the sole purpose of systematically getting rid of female fetuses, or defend the doctors who have run butcher shops under the guise of ‘abortion clinics’. But, in a resource starved country like India with almost zero public health infrastructure and where even private health services are hard to come by; USG, more commonly known as, Sonography, has been a boon to millions of patients and doctors alike, particularly in remote rural areas. It is safe, cheap, fast, easy to do and, in reasonably competent hands, remarkably accurate. For over a quarter of a century, it has helped save literally hundreds of thousands of lives. But because, among other things, it can also detect the sex of the foetus; we, in our collective wisdom (Media, Society, The Executive, & The Judiciary together) have branded it and the doctors who use it as the sole cause of female foeticide & the skewed sex ratios in the population.
It wasn’t the little sonography machine (or the doctors) who went around planting the idea in Indian society that a male off-spring is the ultimate and only objective of marital coupling, or that without a male progeny  your Naam/Vansha/Khandan/Kaum will be decimated. And you will not find Moksa/Jannat or whatever as per your religion without a male child performing your last rites. But in our search for a quick and easy way to soothe our moral indignation over female foeticide, we have today made owning a sonography machine and doing a sonography examination a dangerous activity comparable to or even worse than, murder or terrorism! It may sound overly dramatic, but it is a fact that in today’s India, it is logistically easier and legally less risky to run an illegal “Dance Bar” than a Legal Sonography Clinic!
And, the million dollar question still remains, ‘Has this helped reduce the incidence of female foeticide and correct the sex ratio?’ And the answer again is a resounding NO.
I can quote examples from any number of fields, of legislations that entirely miss the point or executive actions that have achieved results that have been opposite of what was desired or which are ridiculous. But more about that some other time.
        The reason for choosing these particular examples is that, to my mind at least, Dowry, Female Foeticide, Eve-Teasing, Honour Killings, and Rape all breed from the same subterranean cesspool in our collective social conscience, viz our attitude towards women.
        If you are honest with yourself you will recognize that even the most educated, civilized, cultured, and progressive liberals among us still harbor in the deepest recesses of our subconscious the medieval attitude that females are a weaker sex. Weaker Physically, Weaker Mentally, Weaker in the sense that they cannot be relied upon to make the right decisions about ‘what is good for them’. That, females need to be protected, most of all from themselves! That, females after all are ‘an object’ of desire and pleasure! That, females whether as daughters, sisters, wives, daughters-in-law, or mothers, are the ultimate form of ‘Property’. Call it irony or tragedy but this attitude is equally deeply ingrained in the psyche of Indian female also!
        To those of you who are muttering to yourself ‘Not ME’, I ask, ‘When was the last time you made morning tea for your wife? Or offered to make the bed after a hard day? Why should a working wife be ‘naturally’ expected to be responsible for running the household singlehandedly, why don’t we find it odd that after coming home together (whether from the movies, eating out, shopping or a hard day of social calls) the husband gets to put his feet up in front of the TV and the wife is expected to fetch and serve a glass of cold water?
        Well one might ask ‘What has that got to do with anything?’
        But, what to you may seem a harmless little idiosyncrasy, gets magnified a hundred and a thousand fold, and results in rape in those who are less fortunate than you in terms of decency, culture, upbringing, education and civic sense.
        As long as we continue to discriminate among our own children simply on the basis of their sex,
        As long as we tell our 5 year old daughter that she should give up her toy (or any legitimate right) to her brother who demands it; not out of brotherly love but simply because she is a girl and he is a boy,
        As long as we lay down different rules for ours sons and daughters in childhood, adolescence, teen-age, or adulthood,
        As long as we continue to believe and say that they are ‘Dusare Ki Amanat’ & ‘Paraya Dhan’,
        As long as we expect our daughters to ‘learn to adjust, learn to sacrifice’ because they are girls and have to one day go to ‘Paraya Ghar!’
        We cannot hope to provide safe streets or dignified work environment or respectful marriages for our daughters!
        And No Legislations, No Laws, No Candle Marches, No Panel Discussions on TV,  and no amount of hysterical chest thumping is going to change this reality!


Unknown said...

I entirely agree with you. The respect for female should come from with in and not by laws or force. The society has to change it's mind set. My family refused to give dowry for my nice and the proposal broke.

Unknown said...

I entirely agree with you. The respect for female should come from with in and not by laws or force. The society has to change it's mind set. My family refused to give dowry for my nice and the proposal broke.

Monty Sheth said...

Very well written. This is the most rational and logical article I've read about the ills of our society in a long long time. Keep it up!

nitin kudrimoti said...

Absolutely right you are. Amending laws only causes greater harassment to the common man, just the way the sonologists are suffering. The cap on no. of sms's per day is another glaring example. It is like punishing crores of innocent people just because some terrorists used mobiles. Next they may close down all restaurants because the criminals also need to eat! Remedy and laws are essential but what matters is which ones.

Ramesh said...

I whole heartedly agree with the contents of this article. Hope it is read by all and undrstood by our politicians and agitators who are accustomed to a knee jurk phenomenon!

Dilip Raichura said...

pl post this on all possible medias and sites so that many more can read and think

rajanbhonsle said...

MAKING OF A RAPIST : Few thoughts

While one rape gets reported (and may be punished), 16 rapes go unreported (as declared by USA Justice department) in USA. The proportion is likely to be much higher in our country. While 16 commit the crime, thousands of ‘potential’ offenders are lurking all around us. What made them this way? Why are they like that? Have WE contributed in any way to make them like that?

There are certain issues, which even the most outgoing people choose to avoid discussing. As a result of such an attitude, the society keeps suffering the repercussions. ‘Sex education’ is one such issue.

Parents as well as teachers hesitate to provide sex education to children; while they are being pounded with sexual messages everywhere they look; from newspapers, magazines, television and films, to public toilet walls. Their young minds are more vulnerable to these corrupt messages as they are rarely prepared with healthy and legitimate information about sex and sexuality. This interferes with their development towards mature and healthy adulthood.

The ONLY solution is to incorporate “Age-Appropriate, Value-Based, Culture-Speciific SEX EDUCATION”. I strongly believe that sexual crimes, sexual exploitation and sexual dysfunctions can all be prevented through sex education.

Sexuality is a powerful dimension of the personality. It implies intelligent thinking, sensitive feeling and behavioural reactions associated with maleness or femaleness of an individual. Like all the other instincts, the sexual instinct also carries with it certain responsibilities, and the only way to prepare the young generation for being responsible sexually, is through sex education.

Sex education does not mean merely providing information on genital-centred sex; it implies transferring correct values, balanced attitudes and sound perceptions. It is important that we raise children to become adults who will use their sexuality in mature and responsible ways. It is our responsibility to keep the young generation adequately informed, so that correct scientific knowledge may lead to building healthy attitudes towards sex, high standards of conduct, responsible behaviour, and wholesome personalities.


Dr. Bharat R. Shah said...

Well written.

You point out the need to change ourselves /’educate’ ourselves and our children and whoever we can influence, to bring about gender parity and hopefully , that would bring respect, safety and dignity for women. I am sure nobody would disagree with that. But what about other issues?

Till the time an ideal situation exists and ideal goals are achieved, should issues like better governance, better laws be ignored? A social change is achieved through many ways and proper laws do play a part. And governance that permits law to be implemented sincerely, effectively and equally is also of great importance. You seem to disagree on that. There is a wide spread movement against dowry and female foeticide in our society and stringent laws do play an important part in this dynamic s of change. Is there a change as reflected by numbers in these areas? You say NO. I would like to see some evidence; I would also not be pessimist that numbers will not become better as time passes by. In both these areas laws have played a role and so have education, media and social debates, and public protests. All such things play a part in causing introspection, change of a self and self education. And this can be carried forward ,when imparted to others, as education. Of course there are other issues too, that are involved. Morals, ethics of a society, education of a self thru’ religion, economic conditions, economic parity among gender, inspiring leadership, the school and basic education, its curriculum and its implementation and there must be so many more. Depending on one’s orientation and expertise, the importance of an individual factor may vary. But there is no point in being like blind men describing an elephant. Social change and proper education is more like a goal rather than means. Other issues lead you there.

Jagdish said...

Increasing assertiveness by women is the only way for quick change
Nothing else will make any difference
They should simply say a big NO

Sneha Gaikwad said...

This is so true...its the attitude that makes a difference..education of women and quick n strict punishment for the accused might resolve these problems to some extent..